Sunday, February 28, 2010

We Welcome New Traffic Chick Alexis Smith, and Note Her Namesake’s Appearances with Your Plainsman

My Ticket Confession welcomes new Ticket Traffic Twist Alexis Smith.

She goes by “Alexis,” which is kul, but regrettably it avoids reminding us of her namesake, the gorgeous film and stage actress Alexis Smith, who appeared in many movies and won a Best Actress Tony for Sondheim’s “Follies.”

Your Plainsman must abandon his customary modesty to note that he spent considerable time with the original Alexis Smith on the silver screen in several Warner Brothers films, e.g., San Antonio (1945):

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Does Anyone Know, Based on Actual Aural Evidence . . .

whether Greg Williams (Greggo, Hammer, HeHoo) is actually broadcasting on KSEY 1230 AM (Seymour/Wichita Falls)?

I read about his gig there, and I see they’re having a contest for a broadcasting partner for him, but I have not actually heard him broadcasting. Can’t find an online stream, can’t pull in the station. How’s he sound? Healthy?

By the way, does it strike anyone as odd, with all of the people out there looking to break into broadcasting, that they have to have a contest to find an on-air partner for him?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Cumulus HR Department May Want to Freshen Up Its Employee Training

I was surprised at the Musers’ reaction to the suspension of Tony Kornheiser for his remarks about Hannah Storm’s outfit. They thought his suspension was some kind of politically correct overreaction.

Let’s put aside (1) Kornheiser’s apparent internal and external reputation as a thin-skinned pud and (2) ESPN’s past problems with sexual harassment, both of which probably contributed to them coming down hard on a star. Kornheiser, for all his celebrity, is an employee. There is scarcely a responsible employer anywhere in the US that would have shown any tolerance for that kind of talk in private, and that it was broadcast to the world made it infinitely worse. “Sexual harassment” consists not only of inappropriate behavior by one person towards another, but the fostering of a “sexually hostile workplace.” ESPN could not possibly have let Kornheiser’s boorish remarks pass without some meaningful smackdown.

Kornheiser’s ungracious remarks about her attire were bad enough. Comparing her to a Holden Caulfield fantasy – was he referring to Caulfield’s hiring a prostitute? to his fantasy about catching small children coming through the rye? – bordered on slander. And lest we all think that Ms. Storm’s outfit deserved what it got, my informal poll of women who had seen the offending oufit shrugged and suggested that it was not altogether out of style.  Female employees upset at their treatment by ESPN would point to tolerance of thickwits like Kornheiser as Exhibit 1.

Kornheiser is lucky to have a job to return to when his supension is over. (And given his unappealing broadcast persona, lucky to have a job at all.) If this weren’t show biz, he’d be gonzo.

A Modest Proposal for the Hardline – PART 5: Postscript

If you’ve stuck with me through the endless blather of the first four parts, many thanks and accept my apologies for trying your patience.

I know I said this was going to be a four-parter. But in preparing that last installment I thought of something.

Mike is not an old man. Got a lot of broadcasting left in him. But he’s not going to be on the show forever. There will come a day when The Hardline will have to, shall we say, evolve. It is not too early for Ticket management to consider how that transition will take place.

Maybe my suggestion is unworkable. In fact, it probably is. But the distinctive voice of The Hardline will inevitably change. Cumulus and Ticket management would do well to begin considering how to keep the drivetime goose laying those golden eggs, instead of regular ones.

And to pay Grubes and Danny whatever they ask.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Modest Proposal for the Hardline – PART 4: The Modest Proposal Itself

HeeHoo is not coming back.

And Mike probably is not going to magically reassert control over the show.

But I invite you to consider whether balance, stronger content, and Mike's interest might be restored by the introduction of another host, someone who could bring to the show something of the same animating spirit that HeeHoo did.

And, most importantly, someone who could be Mike's ally in the same way that HeeHoo was. A more meaty, blue-collar voice to offset the too-cool-for-school smartiness of the two lads. (Again, I like that attitude, but without some leavening it wears you down day after day.) Someone who could lessen the severity of the Corbyward tilt, and might, just might, be able to talk sports in the bargain.

I understand the risk. The show is good now, why upset what chemistry there is? What internal problems would arise by introducing someone who would necessarily cut into Corby's air time? Station politics, which are probably already much hotter than any of us imagines, would be daunting. If it failed, wouldn't it be a public relations disaster? Look what happened when they tried to pair Connie Chung with Dan Rather.

These are all quite legitimate questions, and all reasons why this modest proposal will, to a virtual certainty, live and die in this little blog.

But just for fun, let me invite you to put aside the impossibility of any organic change in The Hardline in the short run, and review for a moment the merits of an individual who is right there on the premises, available for service:

Mike Bacsik.

Don't laugh, or snort in derision. Just bear with me for a minute. Consider – he has a lot of HeeHoo's strengths (not all, not yet), some strengths that HeeHoo did not have, and none of his weaknesses. But also some weaknesses that HeeHoo did not have.

     --      He is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. He sometimes misspeaks in a very charming, engaging kind of way. Sound familiar?

     --      Although younger than Corby and Danny, he conveys a general impression of adulthood, stability, maturity. Family man.  (Yeah, I know Corby is a family man -- a man with a family.)

     --      He is not a slick broadcaster. His voice is not polished; is, in fact, a little coarse. Very matter of fact, but can summon up passion about the things that matter to him. Someone like Followill would not work on aesthetic grounds alone – the voice just doesn't fit with the Hardline. I feel the same way about Rhadigan. Those guys are broadcaster’s broadcasters – they hate dead air, but the pauses and errors of everyday conversation are part of what gives The Ticket its distinctive and appealing sound. Love both Mark and John, and love it when they sit in, but with the exception of Bob Sturm and Danny, there’s not a classic broadcasting voice on the station. You need someone with a little roughness around the edges, and Bacsik fills that bill. Just this morning, George Dunham was making fun of Bacsik’s voice, likening it to Chewbacca’s. There you go – it’s a distinctive, likable sound and not a prefab broadcast sound. (And by the way: George’s timbre is not so far distant from Bacsik’s.)

     --      He possesses the distinctive quality of actually knowing something about a variety of sports. Holds his own with Norm.

     --      He has broadcast and behind-the-scenes technical experience without being a "professional" broadcaster.

     --      He comes across as a nice guy.

     --      DISADVANTAGE: He is not a naturally amusing human. For it to work, he would have to loosen up a little. His shows with Rhadigan over the Christmas break were quite good. His weekend show with some guy whose name escapes me right now is also good. But he'd need some time to get into the swing of things on The Hardline.

     --      DISADVANTAGE: Might be a little straight-laced for some of the more rambunctious Hardline segments. He would need to get comfortable with pop culture topics, chicks, movies, bad music, and, of course, the occasional bodily discharge. That would come with time. In any event, that seat at the table should be a little, shall we say, uninformed about certain things – like HeeHoo was.

     --      DISADVANTAGE: The man likes to talk. He can go on some. Nothing would be worse than The Hardline sounding like Why Today Doesn’t Suck, with a buncha guys talking at once.

     --      DISADVANTAGE: Three guys on the show named Michael.

Of course, the most difficult problem is how The Ticket could make this happen in a way that did not make it seem as though the station were concerned about The Hardline. (For all I know, Cumulus and station management have no concern whatsoever about The Hardline. In fact, I may be the only person who does.) Maybe have Bacsik produce a few times if Danny has some time off. If that works for the show, have him sub for Corby a couple times when Corby has a commitment elsewhere. See how it goes.

OK, so maybe you don’t care for Bacsik . Or maybe he’s not the right guy. But what do you think about looking for a structural change in the show that sharpens up the creative tension that used to make that showgram snap? Is Your Plainsman way off base here?

Let’s say a new host were brought in, any new sportsy host: What would happen?

Mike R would be challenged to sharpen up his sports awareness. His interest in the show would revive, as it seemed to do when Rhadigan was on the show last week. Segments would have more substance, would rely less on repetitive inside gags and drops. (But, of course, we still want an appropriate quantity of inside gags and drops.)

It might be perceived as a "demotion" for Corby. (Adding any new host would have this effect.) That would be regrettable, as he certainly doesn’t deserve one. Another host would inevitably cut into his airtime, although it is not beyond imagining that Mike R would be the one reducing his cumulative airtime with a new voice there to talk sports. The whole idea here is to get mike interested again, get him off the defensive, increase the dramatic tension between the two factions of the show, which is what gives it its charm. If Mike R's participation (quantity or quality) were not enhanced by Mike B's arrival, then the strategy will fail.

Crazy? Sure. Just how crazy depends on how you think The Hardline is sounding. If you think its current gestalt is fine just the way it is and for the future, then it’s real crazy. If you don’t enjoy the showgram like you used to – or if, like me, you’re just worried about the damned thing – ask yourself why. If you locate the source of your reaction in the OverCorby (or, perhaps more accurately, the UnderMike) – as much as you may like them both – then a structural solution, while risky, may not be quite as crazy as it seems on first hearing.

Ask yourself this: If you had only known Greg Williams from occasional host appearances and contributions as a producer, and the Hardline were just like it is today, what would you have thought of the suggestion that he be added as an additional host on The Hardline? Could any of us have possibly imagined the legendary powerhouse that show became?

Of course, Norm would need a new producer. I nominate Doyle King.

Thank you for shopping at My Ticket Confession.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Modest Proposal for the Hardline – PART 3: What's Changed

[PRELIMINARY NOTE: The whole idea of this site is to be civilized and balanced, which includes calling attention to the really fine things about The Ticket. I drafted the articles in this series a couple of months ago, after I’d written some articles making a couple of the same points I make below and during a time when I thought The Hardline had noticeably declined.

[In fairness, in recent weeks The Hardline showgram seems to be making a comeback. So let me concede that some of what follows may be somewhat outdated. So why offer it at all?

[As I noted Friday, the only reason I’m posting this series of blowhard essays at this time is because I was so startled by how good the show sounded last Wednesday when John Rhadigan sat in and Mike was really on his game. So I’m thinking that, even if certain things have gotten better on the showgram, a little additional encouragement can’t hurt. The following observations, while perhaps overstated in light of the recent improvement, continue to reflect a lot what I’m hearing. The UnTicket guy is even switching to KSEY AM 1230 to listen to Greggo once in awhile: . I haven't taken that radical step yet, but only because I can’t seem to pull in AM 1230 or find it streaming online.]

[See Monday, February 22, for Parts 1 and 2.]

Over the past year, the show has changed. The changes are in several areas, and they're related to one another. God, I love the freakin' Hardline, and it pains me to post these observations, it really does. But I’m worried about it. We're hearing more unsponsored segments. Of all the shows on The Ticket, The Hardline seems to me the most fragile. Still a great show, but somehow wandering a bit, uncertain of its direction. I think this is manifested in several ways:

(1) Balance. Corby, aided and abetted by Danny, has become the dominant personality on the show. As I have said, I like and admire the job Corby has done, and I like to listen to him, but the charm of The Hardline is the drama of the interplay between the frisky youngsters and the stern pappy. That tension has all but vanished. One day a couple of months ago, the gang even showed some self-awareness on this point. I wrote about it at the time:

“The Hardline boys made one of their rare forays into commenting on the nature of their partnership today. I forget the context, but Corby had said something naughty, and Mike was complaining that if he had said it, the music would have come down and it would have been dumped. Danny then referred to Mike as the ‘patriarch’ of the show by way of suggesting that Mike’s role was to ‘keep the monkeys in line’ (and, the implication was, to lend some dignity to the proceedings by virtue of his age and show seniority). That is, Danny and Corby were arguing that they were allowed to get away with impish misbehavior that Mike should not be associated with and should be discouraged from pursuing. Mike objected that he wanted to be every bit as disruptive (I forget the actual word he used) as monkeys Corby and Danny.

“Corby and Danny were right, and this supports something I have written several times in the past: The one thing missing from The Hardline since the departure of Greg Williams (which I favored) is balance. Mike has become infantilized because he can’t compete with the barrage of juvenilia issuing from the Danny-Corby axis in the way he used to, when he had some support, however sporadic, from the Hammer. He can’t beat ‘em, so he’s been trying to join ‘em, and it's uncomfortable to hear.”

Now Corby seems to do most of the talking, and even when Mike introduces a segment, Corby frequently interrupts to pitch the bit the way he thinks it should be pitched, and Mike encourages him to take over the segment. [Note: I don’t hear as much of this as I used to.] The upshot of all of this is that Mike seems denatured, tamed, overwhelmed by Corby's energy and Danny's cynicism. With HeeHoo, he had a tough-guy ally against the kids. He sometimes sounds like a guest on his own show.

Let me repeat that I do not "blame" Corby, or Corby + Danny, for this. It is a natural result of two against one, and the two aging lads just have more natural energy. It's fun sometimes; but it's also uncomfortable to hear this lion of Dallas broadcasting, and the father of The Ticket, overwhelmed on a show he still introduces and headlines.

Look, it’s Mike Rhyner that makes The Hardline hard.

(2) Vulgarity. I wrote about this here. I won't go into detail, but The Hardline has gotten pretty raw. Can't have it on in the car with my wife any more. She used to enjoy it when we were out together, but the frequency of the genitalia/regular sex/irregular sex/bodily effluvia references is starting to come close to pegging the Sternometer. The profanity is too frequent and casual; it cheapens the showgram. I'm not a prude and I don't mind vulgar humor at all; I savor the perfectly-placed Grubian fart-drop. But the current intensity of blue on The Hardline, and especially the demeaning references to women, have become repetitive, dull, and just not entertaining. These talented performers are much funnier and smarter than that.

(3) They Actually Do Show Prep? Part of the greatness of The Hardline is that it’s something of a mess – or sounds that way. But there’s a real art to making the show sound like it’s just a bunch of buddies who show up and shoot the bull for three-and-a-half hours, and the fact that The Hardline (and, in fact, almost all of The Ticket showgrams) pull it off so often is a tribute to the broadcasting talent of the hosts and other on-air guys. The genius is in making it sound that way while still putting on a show that, after all is said and done, has held our interest.

The Hardline phones it in more often than the other shows. I don’t mean to draw invidious comparisons, but The Musers always give the strong impression of someone having given some thought to how to fill that airtime with intriguing, creative bits. The Hardline sounds that way less and less often. A segment or two for the headline sports items of the day. E-News (hope Corby has read the website printouts before he tries to read them on the air). Community Quick Hits (hope Corby has read the website printouts before he tries to read them on the air). Fun with Real Audio (non-Hardline content burning some airtime, featuring Corby). Mike inquires hopefully whether the segment might possibly have attracted a sponsor?

With The Hardline, the references to guys missing show meetings ring true.

(4) Mike Checks Out. On November 8, in connection with a Corby interview with Mark Followill in which Mike did not participate, I wrote:

“[Mike] seems not to be terribly interested in the proceedings. He sometimes gives the impression of not knowing what segments are coming up. The guys kid about the lack of preparation for the show, and that's fine, we love them for their informality in conducting something as precisely timed as a broadcast usually is, but when the lack of preparation – and interest -- begin affecting the show, the hand begins to reach for the dial."

And do we recall Mike's contribution when he was on the Cowboys post-game shows when KTCK had the Cowboys? Right, neither do I, because his presence was all but unnoticeable, and he's apparently no longer invited to join pre- or post-game stuff on The Ticket. I don't really look to Mike for a lot of nuanced sports analysis. But I do expect him to be at least a co-equal personality on his own show.

There was a weird moment on Monday (February 22, 2010): At the outset of the show, Mike seemed utterly baffled as to who was doing traffic. Earlier in the day, the Musers had rather extensively interviewed a woman who they introduced as The Ticket’s new traffic reporter, Alexis. Mike seemed to have no idea that this hiring had taken place. This perplexity did eventually morph into a funny encounter with Doyle King (again – Hardline genius to take an awkward moment and make good radio out of it), but it was still a little embarrassing that Mike had zero idea that he’d be working with a new permanent traffic colleague, and one who was already a fairly notable presence on the Dallas radio scene to boot. One gets the impression that Mike doesn’t talk (or maybe listen) to Ticket management, or perhaps it’s vice-versa.

Possibilities: (i) He's given up trying to compete with Corby and Danny. (ii) He's bored with the gig. (iii) Something's going on with Cumulus or station management – his frequent begging for "someone to come in and buy this thing" sounds sincere to me. (iv) He's preoccupied with other outside interests (Petty Theft, now apparently sponsored by Southern Comfort). (v) As his roles of founder, part-owner, and guiding spirit of The Ticket recede into the past, he's not (literally) "invested" in the station in the same way – well-paid, but with his former heartfelt stake in the place beginning to fade.

The reason doesn't really matter. Mike Rhyner is an extraordinary broadcaster, an incredibly appealing voice and personality, the real star and public face of The Ticket, not to mention its chief inventor. When you hear that voice in full throat, you cannot change the channel. In his own immortal words, we need "more me."

Or do we?

Maybe we just need more of someone else, someone to support Mike, someone to take some of the burden of the show off Corby and Danny and let them do what they do best. Try to bring back some of the good old days of Greggo-era creative balance.

Tomorrow:  PART 4:  I Finally Get to the Point

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Modest Proposal for the Hardline – PART 1: My Ticket Confession

If you are coming to this blog for the first time, let me re-introduce its reason for being:

I love The Ticket. I love some parts of it more than others, but I love pretty much all of it. One exception, and maybe I'll get to that some day if I'm feeling dyspeptic, but let's just say that I'm an unapologetic P1. I listen, I defend, I think it's about the best reason to live in the DFW area.

But when you spend enough time with something you love, you notice the blemishes, the weaknesses, the occasional departure from the ideal. Those things can be endearing, but you still wish you could lean over and push that errant strand of hair back over her ear.

That's how I feel about the Ticket. They could leave it just the way it is and it's still the most enjoyable thing on the radio. Nothing sounds like it anywhere. I am familiar with sports radio offerings in several major markets. Nothing touches The Ticket. I tried listening to a competing sports-talk station not long ago, and it was appalling. Impossible to believe that a major radio outlet in this market couldn't attract any better talent than the jamoke they had taking calls.

But from time to time, I hazard the thought that a faithful listener might offer a suggestion or two, respectfully expressed, affectionately offered, with some reasoning behind it. The intimacy of The Ticket’s presentation – they want you to view these guys like pals whose conversations you’re just dropping into – encourages a highly personal reaction, which is sometimes unavoidably judgmental.

That's My Ticket Confession – The Ticket is incomparable, but I worry about it sometimes like one would a beloved child.

I have a modest proposal for The Hardline.

A Modest Proposal for The Hardline – PART 2: Does the Hardline Need Fixing? – How We Got Here

Well, no, it doesn’t need fixing. It isn't broken. If it were, it wouldn’t continue to dominate its demo. I listen to it almost daily, and as much of the 3.5 hours as I can. But sometimes things that are humming along OK could use a little adjustment, a little freshening up. A challenge, maybe. I think that time may be approaching for the Hardline, if it hasn't already arrived.

The modern Hardline begins with the departure of Greg "the Hammer" "Greggo" Williams, i.e., He Who Cannot Be Named (hereafter, "HeeHoo"). I favored his termination. During the period I had been listening, he'd become more aggressively ignorant, more misogynistic, less entertaining, and his contribution to the show had noticeably diminished. I didn't know about the drug issues (other than the one he memorably copped to one day), but it seemed to me that HeeHoo was becoming the Brian Jones of the Hardline – still a star, but in recording sessions the Stones put him in a separate studio and disconnected his mic. After his departure I read all the stories, and it was a very familiar one to anyone who has ever known or loved an addict – you have to let the guy hit bottom and if he won't get up you pretty much have to let him go unless you’re able to live in his pocket 24/7. Acquaintance with the truth vanishes in the pursuit of the next high – and its concealment. Yeah, I read the Richie Whitt article, but I also listened to the show every day. Corby and Mike (and Ticket management) were, in my view, 100% blameless in the whole thing. Accommodating an addict is a no-win for the accommodator, irrespective of his or her fondness for the addict or how far they go back.

But almost every listener would say that they fell in love with The Hardline during the "good Greggo" years. And for all the tsuris he caused his colleagues, we all missed HeeHoo and wished there were some way he could return so everything could be like it was.

In the meantime, the show flirted with the plus-ones and went with the Mike-and-Corby-with-some-Danny-and-the-occasional-Grubes lineup most of the time. None of the plus-ones seemed quite right, as interesting as some of them were. So the show assumed its current shape – same as before, but without HeeHoo. And it continued to thrive. It continued to be fun and lively as everyone was getting readjusted. We got to know Danny and Grubes a little better. I happen to think Danny Balis is the most naturally amusing guy, and one of the smartest guys, at the station, oddly appealing even in full grump mode. Grubes – they should give a Pulitzer Prize for drops.

But the focus, of course, was on Corby. Yeah, it was Mike's show, but with Corby filling the HeeHoo void, the latter's fans were scrutinizing him to see if he could hack it, could provide entertainment equivalent to HeeHoo on the latter's good days. Under the difficult circumstances, Corby did a really exceptional job. I think it is hard to say that the show lost much of its appeal with HeeHoo's departure.

The continued success of the program also was also fueled by Mike's innate appeal, but I've said it before, I'll say it now, I'll say it tomorrow – despite the verdict of countless blogs and comments on blogs and blogs about other blogs, Corby does not suck. He is a very talented broadcaster. He is a first-rate interviewer, one of the best anywhere in DFW. He has an astounding gift for getting difficult subjects to talk to him (Parcells and Shaq, to name a couple). His voice is distinctive and refreshing. Yes, he could stand to edit out the clich├ęs and hyperbole, but those weaknesses are not unique to him. To my ear he has gotten better and better as time has gone by. He has earned his current prominence on The Hardline. Bravo, Corby.

Mike remained Mike. The irascible, loquacious, aging hipster. The kind of charming grouch we'd like to call a pal, if he just didn't dislike us so much – the Fred Mertz of The Ticket.

And he remained, for lack of a better word, the boss of the show.

Ratings remained astronomical. Sponsors stayed put. Lots of remotes, the sponsors must love these guys. Why in the world would anyone want to mess with that?

TOMORROW: PART 3: What’s Changed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Non-Ticket Sports Observation: I’m Not the Type

of guy who finds racial issues lurking around every corner.

But can you imagine the outrage if three black athletes had behaved on the winner’s stand the way Shaun White and the other two guys did during the anthems?

Youth and incomparable hipness are no excuse.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How Do the Programs . . .

. . . get show-biz interviews? Take Pauly Shore, for example, who had a chinwag with the Musers this morning. I believe he is “appearing” somewhere in the DFW area as a stand-up act this weekend. And Gordon mentioned that he’d interviewed Shore once on his show. Yeah, here it is, labeled as an “awkward minute" on

So the Musers undoubtedly knew from Gordon that the guy has the ad-libbing skills of a diseased macaque. Of course, the Musers themselves aren’t working the phones lining up interviews. Nor, I suspect, would a producer think he was a natural for the morning show. No, this was probably some PR guy or agent cajoling local stations to put this last-century jamoke on the air, trotting him around to local stations, maybe spread around some tickets to his shows. Maybe there was a tie-in with Cumulus somehow – did he appear on any of the other local Cumulus properties?

Doesn’t matter. I felt considerable sympathy for the Musers trying to spin some radio brass – gold would have been far too ambitious – out of this slug who wanted to be someplace else. I forget which Hardliner it was, either Corby or Danny, who observed that the most interesting thing about the interview was listening to the Musers + Gordon trying to set him up to be funny. A futile venture. I dreaded the possibility that one of them would just light into him, but they are, after all, the Gentlemen Musers.

Monday -- Beginning of four-part series on The Hardline.

Michael Comes Alive

We all love the Hardline just the way it is. But did you hear the program on Wednesday? Corby had a family matter to attend to and John Rhadigan filled in. 

The ear will usually welcome change. Some of what made one sit up and take notice on Wednesday was that the show just sounded different. So none of what follows is a knock on Corby, who, as you know, I think is a very talented broadcaster.

But . . . did you hear the difference in Mike’s performance? The man was engaged, in charge. And the show was a pleasure to listen to. Rhads had his say, and some of it was very astute. Danny’s contributions were trenchant and well-timed. The segments sounded like they were . . . egads! . . . prepared. The show crackled; the energy coming through the speakers was palpable.

It was substantial, impactful radio. Shows like today’s remind you of why they call it The Hardline.

[SEE next post re next week's special Hardline series.]

Coming . . . Attraction?

(See my post just above about Wednesday’s Hardline.)

I’ve been worried about The Hardline for awhile. I love it. I listen to it for at least a couple of hours every day. But I just . . . worry about it.

Over the first few months of this blog, I wrote a few articles on what concerned me about this great show.  A couple of months ago, I expanded on those articles in what I intended to be a four-part article, explaining why I worry about it and even advancing – respectfully, as always -- a suggestion for a new direction for the program.

Then I thought really, how dumb and presumptuous is it to noodge one of the greatest programs in any medium? Also, it seemed to me that some of the things about the program that had started to nag at me might have gotten a little better. So I put it aside.

Then I heard Wednesday’s show with Mike and John Rhadigan, and I decided to go ahead and publish. (Also, I figure we can have some confidence that nothing written here has the slightest influence on anything that happens anywhere in the world, so what’s the harm?) Warning: It’s long (surprise!).

The first two installments will appear Monday.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cumulus -- The Power of Two Tin Cans and a Waxed String

Jesus Christ, Cumulus has four radio stations in this market. Get Sweet Sweet Michael Gruber a goddam microphone.**

You telling me that there aren’t some spare mics laying around one of those studios? What about your fine advertiser, Altex, who brags about supplying Ticket engineers with their gear?

Mike is right. Someone needs to come in and buy this thing. How much is The Ticket worth? Your Plainsman may look into that. If you’re an industry guy or media property broker, let me hear from you at Maybe I’ll round up a herd of wealthy P1s and we’ll buy the thing.


** Pardon the vulgarity – temporarily suspending my own rules for this site.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Listening Too Hard -- That Craig Ferguson Ad

A little help for Your Plainsman, O fellow Confessors?

That ad for Craig Fergson’s live stand-up show is driving me nuts because I can’t understand the punch line. The ad features a joke where Ferbuson constrasts alcoholics and junkies. The alcoholic, he says, will steal your wallet and feel great remorse.

The junkie, he says, will steal your wallet “and then _____________.”

It sounds like he says “kill Earl” or something like that. That’s funny in kind of a surreal way, but just doesn’t sound like the right punchline to me. Can any of you make that out?

Driving me freakin’ nuts.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Anonymous Barb! Come Back, A-Barb! You’re Good for, uh, Traffic!

Anonymous Barb Smith, if you’re out there, I must tell you that you must have either lots of fans or lots of people who are concerned about you. When your anonymous visit to Your Plainsman’s site became known to bloggers and their visitors, the traffic here shot way up.

(For those visitors who don’t know what I’m talking about, see here or here.)

So, A-Barb, I invite you to return to My Ticket Confession. Of course, I would prefer that you made yourself known in some way other than as “Anonymous,” but I guess anyone could pretend to be you even if posting under the name “Barb Smith.” So if you (or someone claiming to be you) does reappear, we will just have to go by “look and feel” like we did the first time to figure out if it is really you or some imposter.

I don’t much care what you write – your public seems anxious to read anything you might have to say. If you do show up, perhaps I’ll toss a question or two your way, and you can respond if you feel like it. Within reason, I will moderate the comments from visitors to ensure you are treated with the proper respect.

Whether or not you favor us with some new dispatches, I’m sure I join my fellow Confessors in wishing you the best.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Do the Musers Really Not Know . . .

. . . how to pronounce “Rielle”? As in Rielle Hunter, John Edwards’s twist?   They (mainly Gordon, but Craig too) always pronounce it “RYE lee" (i.e., "Riley").  Nope, it’s “ree ELL.” 

I think they do not know, because there is no humor value in pronouncing it “RYE lee.” Which means, as Your Plainsman has long suspected, these guys get most of their non-sports information from the written word and video pop-culture snippets. (Although one would think that the spelling “Rielle” would suggest the “ree ELL” pronunciation.)  

Nothing wrong with that. But it does contribute to the occasional cringe-value of The Ticket’s forays into non-sports topics. 

ADDENDUM: On Thursday, the Hardline, featuring special guest George the Commander, said that they’d never heard the term “truther” applied to people who believe the government was behind 9/11.  Hey, it’s a sports-talk station.

PS:  Wait a minute.  Gordon has GOT to know how to pronounce "Rielle."   He's GOT to have followed this Edwards thing from the beginning of time.  He's GOT to have watched video on this where "Rielle" was pronounced repeatedly.  So why pronounce it "Riley"?   Must be an inside Muser gag that I've just missed.

I know this is of zero importance to Ticket listeners or hosts. But it’s my damned blog and I want to know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Archer v. Spagnola; or, A Modest Proposal on What (if Anything) to Do About “The Ranch Report” – PART 2

In the previous post I rambled on about how colorless and uninteresting The Ranch Report has been, whether in the hands of Mickey Spagnola or Todd Archer.

Before throwing out a couple of respectful suggestion, let us consider the possibility that there just isn't enough news coming out of Valley Ranch on a daily basis to make The Ranch Report compelling listening under any circumstances.

OK, I’ve considered it. I don't believe it. My guess is that the Ticket hosts themselves hear an enormous amount of inside Cowboy information that they do not share with the P1 Refugees. (And inside info re the Mavericks, and Rangers, and Stars (but who cares) and FC Dallas (ditto in spades).) Interesting information; information that affects on-field decisions and performance. Who's up, who's down, who's at the clubs late at night, who doesn’t like white (or black) guys, who got chewed out on Monday, who's switched from D&M Auto Leasing to AutoFlex. That would be a Ranch Report worth listening to.

Of course, all of this is complicated by The Ticket's "partnership" with the Dallas Morning News. (I really need to pick up the DMN to see how the partnership is manifested in its pages. I'm guessing that the DMN needs The Ticket more than vice-versa, but that's a topic for another time.) Maybe they have some kind of legal or moral obligation to feature the DMN beat guy on the station.

If not, then I have several modest proposals:

First, safe suggestion: Get an “outside” Michael Lombardi-type or Peter King-type – he (or she) wouldn’t have to be of national renown, just a skilled and knowledgeable pro sports reporter or observer (ex-jock, but not Troy Aikman) – to do a report devoted solely to the team at issue (Cowboys, Rangers, Mavs, Stars) Might be expensive, but remember, we’re putting on a better show here. Advertisers would pay more to be associated with a name commentator.

For an example of this, think about Mark Followill’s calls to the Hardline. Those are terrific segments. Followill is employed by – hell, I don’t know, but if he’s not employed by the Mavericks, then the Mavericks undoubtedly have a voice in his retention. Nevertheless, his commentary on the Mavericks is informed and candid. It is interesting to listen to because we have come to trust him not to pull his punches.

Second, out-there suggestion: Turn The Ranch Report into more of a TMZ-styled segment in which some of the stuff that sports radio guys actually hear about the Cowboys makes it onto the air. I absolutely understand that The Ticket does not want to traffic in naked rumors, in stuff that has no indicia of reliability, or highly personal information that, if disclosed, would threaten reputations and relationships. But O Confessors, you well know that there is a large amount of credible and juicy information that swirls around a team with the high public profile of the Cowboys, and a lot of it leaks out, and a lot of it visible out on the street. Someone knows that information and can make an informed editor's draw between the likely and the unlikely. Where is that knowledgeable person? Who should be doing The Ranch Report? I have no idea. Hey, I'm not paid to provide all the answers. (Hmm, come to think of it, I'm not paid for ANY of these jewels.)

My modest proposal is that The Ranch Report should be ditched and replaced by a segment with news of interest to P1s. Call it . . .

The Death Star Dish
Voice from the Valley
Cowboy Confidential

.  .  .  or something less crappy. I think I might use a female reporter, even if she were not the source of the information. There are all kinds of ways this could work without significant risk of liability. The Ticket doesn’t have to worry about a paycheck from the Cowboys. It doesn’t have to worry very much about access – how sad would we be if The Ticket were denied access to Martellus Bennett? A small price to pay for even more startling ratings. Can you imagine the hullabaloo if The Little Ticket broke a story or two?

Third – solely procedural – suggestion: Two, three times a week would be often enough for either of these formats. The Ranch Report itself (with Archer or someone like him) might be better if it appeared less frequently and the host could gin up some tidbits for us.

A pipe dream, I know. (Wait until you hear my suggestions for The Hardline, in an upcoming multi-parter – this one will look positively reasonable.) But whatever you do, Cumulus – don't subject us to another year of the sound-check Ranch Report.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Archer v. Spagnola; or, A Modest Proposal on What (if Anything) to Do About “The Ranch Report” – PART 1

When Mickey Spagnola was doing The Ranch Report, we all knew he was an employee of the Cowboys. So we always kinda didn't know what to make of his reports. Was this the straight stuff or was it the company line? He was always a voice-of-reason kind of guy, seldom had any really serious breaking news unless it was fairly minor – someone held out of practice for one reason or another. He came across as a pretty OK guy, and the Ticket hosts seemed to like him.

But I wonder if anyone had the same feeling I had: The Ranch Report usually brought the Hardline (and other shows it was on) to a gentle stop. The most interesting thing about it was Michael's sing-songy introduction. We'd either heard Mickey's stuff already on a Ticket Ticker, or what we were going to hear was not of much significance. Once in awhile he'd offer a tastier observation, but those instances were few and far between. There was never much banter or warmth between Mickey and the hosts. He wasn’t of the shows; he was just on the shows. 

Then the Cowboys moved on to a better signal – and perhaps more respectful treatment at the hands of the local hosts, or more money, or who knows why – and Mickey went with them. Todd Archer, Cowboys Dallas News beat guy, was now reporting from the Ranch. I recall his first few dispatches as pretty good. Good energy, some interesting observations. Seemed to work well with the hosts. Mike seemed excited to have him on.

I would be interested in the observations of fellow Confessors on his performance over the course of the NFL year. I want to be fair. Archer is not a professional broadcaster and should not be held to high standards of audio professionalism. But the tradeoff we’re looking for here is that in return for listening to this press guy’s voice, we’re going to get some shinier nuggets than Spagnola doled out.

Personally, I was disappointed. His reports grew less informative, seldom offering the kind of "inside" stuff that one would expect from an objective report issuing from Valley Ranch. His energy level sank. His radio presence was nowhere near as vibrant as Spagnola's, for about the same amount of not-very-sexy information. Like Spagnola, Archer seems like a real nice guy and a knowledgeable guy, a sense of humor, too, and at least the various hosts didn't show particular contempt for him (i.e., contempt beyond their customary contempt for non-host participants in the show). As it had with Spagnola, Archer's Ranch Reports became an opportunity to punch P2 and listen to "All Things Considered."

Upon reflection, the reason for the lack of interesting information conveyed during The Ranch Report was obvious: Just as one could not blame Spagnola for respecting the source of his paycheck, one cannot blame Archer for (and I am speculating here with zero evidence) protecting the trust that gives him access to inside information he needs to do his job. He surely knows (or reasonably suspects) more than he’s giving us on The Ranch Report. But I feel for the guy -- he can't say what he knows, or pretty soon his Cowboy sources (the sources he needs to do his real job of sportswriting) would cut him off. So we probably need to give both Mickey and Todd a break, concede that they’re good at what they do, and regret that there is a price to be paid in the coin of broadcast discretion in return for a continued paycheck and/or continued access.

If you think I’m being too harsh, O my Confessors, let me ask you this: Would you rather listen to Cowboy talk from either of the “insiders” on The Ranch Report, or would you rather listen to Cowboy talk from “outsider” Michael Lombardi on the Musers?


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Where is Barb Smith? She May Be Right Here

If you have come to this site for the first time looking for Barb Smith news, it is possible that Your Plainsman has some for you -- although I cannot be entirely sure.


Scroll down or review the archives for the entry for January 28, 2010, titled:  "Prediction:  Jason Walker  .  .  ." and read the comments.  You will see a series of communications from "Anonymous" that purport to be from the very same Barb Smith.  I suppose Anonymous could be having us on, but to me the posts have the ring of truth.  I believe it is indeed the departed Barb Smith, as does frequent visitor JS.  If you don't have time to check it out, I can report that she says she departed The Ticket on amicable terms, is still friendly with the lads, and that her departure had something to do with the difficulty of a spread-out schedule, a long commute, and the demands of motherhood. 

I thought her (?) communications were quite sweet and thoughtful.  In fact, I now regret having used the word "incoherent" to describe some of her traffic reporting.  (Truth is, I haven't paid any attention to traffic reports to actually plan a commute in any metro area I've ever lived in.)  She really was a part of the Ticket ether, and the fact that we're all curious about what happened to her is some indication of the fondness the P1 Nation feels for her. 

Anyway, check it out and decide for yourself if Ms. Smith has indeed checked in. 

Thank you for shopping at My Ticket Confession.  Hope you will take a moment to look around, and stop back again soon.

Does Coach Denny Green's Voice . . .

.  .  .  make YOU want to reach for a Coors Light?  Me neither. 

I am trying to picture the brainstorming session at the ad agency: 

"We want to appeal to the kind of guy who likes to hang out with guys who sound like they gargle with coal dust and speak in a loud, falsely-enthusiastic and borderline accusatory tone of voice."  

"Only one way to go -- we gotta reach out to Coach Green." 

"That's genius.  And isn't he completely out of NFL and NCAA coaching?"

"Who knows?  I envision the Coors Light drinker as a guy who identifies strongly with terminated pro coaches who, unlike other terminated pro coaches, can't even manage to hang around the league as an assistant or front-office guy or find a college gig."

"I hear ya, bro.  Hey, his Facebook fan club has 17 members!   Before we run Coach up the flagpole any further, anyone know if he's already fronting a competing insipid brew?"

*   *   *

Unfair, I know.  Coach Green may be a great guy.  Probably is.  And you know  .  .  .  maybe hearing that desert-floor voice demanding that you drink Coors would make you thirsty.

And come to think of it -- the ad did make me remember the product.  So maybe those ad guys knew what they were doing after all.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why I Don't Believe the Kopechne Bear-Trap Story

This morning, Gordon’s “Bear Trap of the Week” winner was an account of a guy who was visiting his friend’s family in the late Seventies. Extended family members were present. On one occasion, the guy and the friend (I think the friend was the submitter) were playing ping-pong and drinking some beer and swapping jokes. The guy decides to tell a Ted Kennedy/Chappaquiddick joke. Someone tries to get him to stop telling the joke by giving him the finger-across-the-throat sign, but the guy presses on to the punch line. (Joke not specified.) A silence descends upon the room, and a man and woman leave the room, the man saying that “We don’t appreciate jokes like that.” At that point, the friend tells the joke-telling guy that the couple who left were Mr. and Mrs. Kopechne, Mary Jo’s parents. The name of the family the guy was visiting was not “Kopechne.”

Gordon vouched for this story, saying that he knew some of the people involved.

I believe Gordon believes the story and that he knows someone involved, but I don’t believe the story.

First, someone would have told any stranger to a family attending a family gathering of the presence of persons as historically significant as the Kopechnes, parents of the most famous reckless manslaughter victim in U.S. history.(1)  Not to keep the stranger from making inappropriate references, but because it is extremely interesting. If you visited a home where Marina Oswald was going to be present, don’t you think someone would have mentioned that fact to you?

Second, the story of adults hanging around while young men are playing ping-pong, drinking beer, and telling jokes doesn’t ring true.

Not that it matters much, but a prize as esteemed as the Bear Trap of the Week should be held to the highest standards of likelihood.

(1) I’m not trying to make a political statement here. There are a few investigators who think Kennedy’s failure to report the accident was nondeliberate, but not many. (These investigators thing Kennedy was not in the car at the time, contrary to his own testimony.) The inquest testimony was that she probably lived for quite awhile after Kennedy guided that Oldsmobile into the pond. For the record, however, the coroner’s verdict was accidental drowning.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Corby, Don't Do It

I am a Corby Davidson fan and defender. When the blogosphere and commenters to the blogosphere say "Corby sux," I respond: "Corby does not suck."

But I hope he will reconsider his announced intention to recite to the world the contents of Norm's suitcase on Tuesday's show.

First, it is untrue that anyone gives up some certain fundamental privacy rights when they agree to become employed by The Ticket, as the Hardline seemed to be trying to convince themselves Monday.

Second, gentlemen of a certain age tend to have more health and self-maintenance issues than do, for example, men in their early forties who run the occasional marathon. Those issues are not the Hardline's business, and they are most assuredly not the business of the P1. Nor, for that matter, is Norm's hygiene or apparel. This is radio. Its practitioners have a reasonable expectation that they will not be visualized without their knowledge or consent.

Third, The Ticket guys need to consider the issue of line-crossing, retaliation, and the kind of things that tend to show up in employee lawsuits when employment has come to an unhappy end. I'm not saying that Norm would sue because his privacy was invaded – I'm saying that if Norm ever left the station under circumstances not to his liking, stunts like this will tend to show up alleged to be a "pattern of harassment" or the like, evidence of a discriminatorily hostile workplace.

Now, if Norm is playing along, or has given some fairly explicit consent, that's another story. But just showing up in Fort Lauderdale and rooming with Corby does not amount to consent to Corbillian monkeyshines.

So, Ticket, I would urgently request that in this particular instance, you carefully put the wheels back on, tighten up the nuts, and keep the show on the road.

Notwithstanding the foregoing: Corby does not suck.